Camille abandons the search party and the woods altogether and heads for a local low-key country bar before stopping off at the home of the Nashes. She knows that the family had three girls—including the now-deceased Ann—and one boy, a six year old. Camille knocks back a couple of bourbons, anxious about having to confront the Nashes. She is not the kind of reporter who enjoys going through people’s private lives.
Camille is in an odd line of work for someone with her personality—private and cagey herself, she resents having to tear apart people’s private world and inner lives to get a good scoop. Camille respects secrets and boundaries.
Camille arrives at the Nashes’ “homely” ranch house, where a little boy is riding a tricycle around the front yard. Camille gets out of her car and offers to give the boy a push, but the little boy is frightened and runs inside. Camille approaches the front door, just as a man appears there—she asks him if he’s Robert Nash, and he tells Camille to call him Bob. Camille explains that she’s a reporter with a Chicago newspaper and wants to ask him some questions about his daughter’s murder. Camille braces herself for Bob to yell and slam the door in her face, but instead, Bob invites her inside the cluttered house and directs her to the bedroom.
Given Camille’s revulsion towards her own profession, and the things it requires of her, she is surprised when one of her very first interview subject easily agrees to speak with her. Though Wind Gap loves its secrets, perhaps there are still some people here who want to live in the light and find the truth.
Camille and Bob sit down on opposite ends of the bed, and Bob almost immediately begins talking—Camille is grateful for his forthcoming nature. Bob explains that last summer, Ann had been obsessed with riding her bike. Bob and his wife only let her go around the block, but just before Ann started school, they agreed to let Ann ride to her friend’s house just ten blocks away—she never got there. Bob tells Camille he believes there is a “sick baby killer” on the loose—he doesn’t believe Natalie is simply missing.
The story of Ann’s disappearance has a lot to do with control and constraint, and symbolically mirrors the ugliness and danger many women encounter when they go out into the world on their own.
Bob suggests that maybe a “homo” killed Ann. When Camille asks him why he’d say such a thing, he explains that Ann wasn’t raped—and that this fact is the only “blessing” he and his family have. Ann was found strangled, with her teeth pulled, but without any other cuts, bruises, or scrapes. Bob says he’d rather Ann be killed than raped.
Bob’s comments on his daughter’s death reveal pain and sadness, but also an underlying misogyny. Bob feels that for a woman to be raped is a violence worse than death or disfigurement. As the novel progresses, and Camille’s own skewed perceptions of what constitutes deepest violence are exposed, Flynn will continue to examine the ways in which womanhood is judged, commodified, and bartered.
Bob complains that no one has been any help to him or his family—Vickery is clearly in over his head, and a “big-shot detective” assigned from Kansas City is just a smug kid, biding his time until he can get out of Wind Gap for good. Bob shows Camille a picture of Ann, and explains that Ann was a “willful thing” and a tomboy who once chopped all of her hair off rather than allow her mother to put it in curlers. He muses that Ann must have given whoever killed her absolute “hell.”
Bob Nash seeks to control his daughter’s femininity even in death through his comments about how he’d rather her be killed than raped, but even so he admires the “willful” and decidedly unfeminine nature she espoused in life. This passage also shows a similarity between the tomboyish, headstrong Ann and the “feral” Natalie.
After leaving the Nashes’, Camille begins the drive to her mother’s “massive” house at the southernmost end of Wind Gap. Situated in the “wealthy section” of town—a section which comprises three blocks only—Adora’s house is an elaborate Victorian manse complete with a wraparound veranda and a cupola.
Camille’s complicated feelings for Wind Gap haven’t fully been excavated, but her family’s wealth, privilege, and therefore power in town are certainly a part of them.
Camille arrives at the house and rings the doorbell. It is just after 9:15, and Adora, rather than answering the door, calls from the other side to ask who’s there. Camille announces herself, and Adora opens the door, but doesn’t move to give Camille even a “limp” hug. Camille explains that she’s in town for business, and Adora invites her in, warning that the house is “not up to par for a visitor.” Inside, though, the house is perfect and pristine—fresh-cut flowers are in vases in the entryway, and the air is sweet and full of pollen.
Readers first glimpse Adora as an ultra-feminine woman whose default is self-denigration and deflection. It’s clear that there is not a lot of love between her and Camille, judging from Adora’s cool, unenthusiastic reception of her daughter.
Adora offers Camille a drink, and then asks where she’s staying. Camille awkwardly asks for permission to stay at her mother’s, and Adora acquiesces—though she chides Camille for not calling first. As Adora walks down the hall to fix Camille a drink, Camille studies her mother, who is only in her late forties. Adora’s pale skin glows, and her long blonde hair gives her the appearance of “a girl’s very best doll.”
Camille feels out of place in her mother’s house—it is not her home, and she doesn’t feel she has any right to be there or any reason to be there other than the convenience of having a place to stay. She is clearly transfixed—though perhaps not envious—of Adora’s obvious and refined femininity.
Camille peeks her head out onto the back porch, where her wan, prim stepfather Alan is sitting and drinking. He greets Camille stiffly and formally, and then asks what has brought Camille to Wind Gap as Adora emerges onto the porch with Camille’s drink in her hand. Camille explains that she has come to cover Ann Nash and Natalie Keene’s stories for her paper, and Adora seems startled. She begins plucking at her own eyelashes—a nervous habit which Camille remembers well from her childhood.
Adora is a nervous woman who either cannot handle hearing stressful or macabre news—or wants to affect the countenance of someone unable to handle such things.
Adora remarks that both Ann and Natalie’s parents must be having a difficult enough time without Camille copying down their stories and spreading to the world noxious headlines such as “’Wind Gap Murders Its Children.’” Adora tells Camille that she knew the girls, and is having a very hard time—when she asks “Who would do that,” it’s unclear whether she’s referring to the girls’ murderer or to whoever sent Camille to report on the crimes.
Adora seeks to cut down and minimize Camille’s work, and she villainizes not just Camille but all reporters in an attempt to invalidate her daughter’s choices. This is a method of abuse and control—one with which Camille seems all too familiar.
Adora asks Camille not to discuss her work and bring “that kind of talk” into the house while she’s home. Camille asks how her half-sister Amma is, and Adora replies that the girl is upstairs sleeping. Camille, however, can hear footsteps scampering upstairs. Adora warns Camille that she needs to be extra-kind to Amma, as both Ann and Natalie were her schoolmates.
Adora seems determined to shield both herself and Amma from any unnecessary information about Ann’s murder and Natalie’s disappearance. She thereby creates an atmosphere of secrecy and remoteness within the house.
Camille gets a fitful four hours of sleep, full of stressful dreams about Adora feeding her an apple to stop her from dying. At five, Camille gets up and starts dressing—the search party is reconvening in the woods at six, and Camille wants to get another quote from Vickery before the day begins. She plans to head to the police station and wait for him to arrive.
Camille’s dream, in which Adora is forcefully feeding her a healthful fruit, seems to indicate a desire for positive, healthy attention from her mother—but also a fear that Adora will only ever harm and control Camille.
As Camille pulls onto Main Street, she comes upon “a scene that ma[kes] no sense.” An older woman is sitting splayed on the sidewalk, staring at the side of a building; a man is stooped over her. Camille wonders if the woman has had a fall or a heart attack, and gets out of her car to hurry over to them. As she approaches them, the older man begs Camille to call the police and an ambulance. She asks what’s wrong, but then immediately spots what the man is talking about. In the foot-wide space between two shops, a “tiny body” has been propped up, aimed at the sidewalk. It is Natalie Keene, and she is missing all of her teeth.
The discovery of Natalie Keene’s mutilated corpse confirms that she and Ann—both missing all of their teeth—have been killed by the same person. The case is now one of serial murder, and as Camille reels from the gory discovery, it must also occur to her that the stakes of her own personal assignment are now higher than ever.
Camille begins dissociating—she picks up what is happening around her in brief, strange flashes. She sees that there is a Band-Aid on Natalie Keene’s knee, and notices faintly that Vickery has arrived on the scene, along with a second man whom Camille gathers to be the “big-shot detective” from Kansas City. The detective gets to work right away, coaxing the woman and older man’s story out—they are husband and wife, the owners of a nearby diner, and found Natalie’s corpse on their way to open up for the day.
The incident is too much for Camille to handle, and she begins losing her grip on time and reality as chaos begins to swarm around her. Camille—who has suffered the death of a younger sister at some point in her past—is clearly being re-traumatized by the discovery of yet another dead little girl.
The detective sends the couple to the station with Vickery to give official statements, and asks Camille to come as well. As she waits in a room to give the detective her story, she finds herself wishing she could put a fresh Band-Aid on Natalie Keene’s knee.
Camille’s instinct or desire to care for Natalie foreshadows the larger ways in which women caring for one another in futile ways will become one of the book’s central motifs.